After three-plus weeks away, it feels great to be back on 100 Places in the D, highlighting some Detroit goodness!
I didn’t mean to take nearly a month’s hiatus from the blog. But between preparations for the holidays and cray-cray busyness at my day job, it happened – and here I am, on one of the very last days of the year, writing a post for a visit I made over Thanksgiving weekend.
But what a visit it was! On the Saturday after Thanksgiving, I jaunted over to the Motown Museum in Detroit to soak up its historical vibes.
I almost didn’t make the 11 a.m. tour I’d purchased tickets online for earlier that morning, due to foolishness on my part (a.k.a. failing to factor in time for parking). Worth noting: the Motown Museum doesn’t have its own parking lot, AND it’s adjacent to a funeral home – which was hosting a visitation on the morning of my visit. So street parking near the museum was scarce.
The good news was that there was metered parking available along West Grand Boulevard, the street on which the Motown Museum is located. I ended up parking across the street and down a ways, near Henry Ford Hospital. From there, it’s only a few minutes’ walk to the Motown Museum.
I scrambled into the museum and up to the ticket counter to check in. Fortunately, I was only a few minutes late, and the staff was kind enough to let me join the tour, which had just started.
I was surprised to find a group of about 20-something people on the 11 a.m. tour, including people from England and Germany and Americans visiting from out-of-state locales. Of course I shouldn’t have been surprised, given that the museum and the Hitsville U.S.A. building at 2648 West Grand Boulevard that it features has a big reputation, having been the birthplace of Motown Records, that venerable music label that produced major acts such as the Supremes, Stevie Wonder, the Jackson 5, and Smokey Robinson.
The tour, which lasted about an hour, included a video presentation, viewings of Motown-related memorabilia (including one of Michael Jackson’s famous black fedoras and signature glittery gloves), loads of interesting facts, and walk-throughs of Motown founder Berry Gordy’s former living quarters, the preserved lobby of the Hitsville U.S.A. building, and the famed Studio A recording studio, where our group got to sing and dance along to a few bars of The Temptations’ “My Girl.”
After my visit to the Motown Museum, I’m in awe of what Berry Gordy has achieved. Within years of convincing his family to loan him $800 so that he could start Motown Records, he was making millions and fostering some of the biggest musical acts in the world.
Recalling his time working on a Ford Motor Company assembly line, Gordy applied the assembly-line concept to his Motown artists, hiring coaches to help with dancing, etiquette, and finances to transform incoming fledgling singers and musicians into polished performers.
His hard work and ingenuity paid off – so much so that the Hitsville U.S.A. building that acted as recording studio from 1959 to 1972 is now part of this museum that has attracted thousands of people from all over the world.
On the day of my visit alone, the Motown Museum received high levels of traffic; as I was leaving, I heard a member of the staff tell walk-in visitors there weren’t open spots on a tour until 5 p.m. (it was a little after noon).
Visitor interest must at least partly account for the Motown Museum’s planned expansion in the coming years to a 50,000-square-foot exhibit space with estimated construction costs around $50 million.
It was somewhat hard to fathom that the relatively quaint-looking house I found myself standing within on that November morning was the epicenter of a musical powerhouse. It was a profound piece of history to experience – and one more reason for me to believe in Detroit being one of the coolest cities in the world.
2648 W. Grand Blvd.
Detroit, MI 48208